Make food, not war.
“Lebanon? Well, Lebanon is a real case-study of the world of the twenty-first century. In today’s world, information, ideas and people move incredibly fast, and the consequence is that even in those countries where there used to be a clear distinction between majority and minorities, the ‘other’, the ‘different’ is now more and more present. And, you see, Lebanon has always been like that: we are a country that has no majority and no minorities. We’re half Christians, half Muslims; half people looking to the sea, half people looking to the mountains...”.
Kamal Mouzawak, entrepreneur, activist and food and travel writer, tells me about his country over the phone, while the sounds of Beirut traffic echo in the background. So what’s life like in a country like that? Here, like elsewhere, the key is in the way one chooses to look at diversity.
“Either we’re going to be afraid of one another, and go on killing each other like we did for such a long time, or at one point we’re going to stop and think”. Think about whether differences in political views, religious beliefs or ethnicity should really have the final word, or whether, beyond all that, there is something that unites the Lebanese people. For Kamal, the son of farmers and producers, the answer is in the land itself: “we all live on the same land, and we make the same agriculture and the same cuisine out of it”.
In 2004, Kamal’s intuition and his love of the land and its people pushed him into launching Souk el Tayeb – a market, but not just any market. This is the ‘Good Market’ (in Arabic, souk means market and tayeb means good, both in taste and in character), a place where, between a piece of thyme and sesame bread and a spoonful of orange blossom honey, a united nation is built. After all, what speaks better of a nation than its own food?